A spokeswoman for Amazon said delivery drivers would need to maintain third-party liability insurance (CTP) and any other insurance required by law.
“Drivers must follow applicable laws while driving, we conduct background checks, and we offer comprehensive insurance.
“Amazon will provide all delivery partners with Amazon Insurance Coverage which is in addition to the delivery partner’s own policy, at no cost to drivers subject to any deductibles,” she said. “It includes Auto Liability Coverage, Third Party Property Damage and Contingent Comprehensive coverage.
“This policy only applies when you are using Amazon Flex to deliver packages or return undelivered packages back to a designated location.”
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said Amazon Flex raised a public safety risk and need for federal government regulation of the gig economy.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine, who is also a lawyer, said Amazon has escaped legal liability in the US after its sub-contracted delivery drivers were involved in accidents including deaths involving members of the public. The New York Times reported on an investigation by ProPublica which identified more than 60 accidents since June 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors that resulted in serious injuries and 10 deaths.
Mr Kaine said Amazon Flex requires gig workers to log on for four hours at a time “often with unrealistic time pressures placed on the driver”.
“Amazon Flex drivers, just like Uber drivers or food delivery riders, cannot set rates and are entirely directed by an algorithm which allocates work based on an arbitrary ratings system,” he said.
“The government could act today, by implementing federal regulation to improve conditions and protect against the dangerous business models of multinationals that have no interest in their workers.”
The Amazon spokeswoman said the TWU claims were unfounded and that Amazon Flex was regulated by state legislation. “Our delivery blocks are designed to ensure drivers have more than enough time to deliver their packages and we expect that the vast majority of packages will be delivered with time to spare,” she said.
Describing the “be your own boss” line as spin, Labor Senator Tony Sheldon said “Amazon will be the real boss, the app will control when and how drivers and riders work, and Amazon will run for cover when their unsafe distribution network is involved in injury or death”.
Industrial Relations Minister, Christian Porter said workers in the gig economy, “like all other workers, are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace”. He said the gig economy provided opportunities for “freedom and innovation” but also presented challenges including sham contracting “which the government is committed to addressing”.
“Commonwealth, state and territory work health and safety laws require anyone conducting a business or undertaking to ensure the health and safety of all workers, whether they are employees or independent contractors,” he said.
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.